Rep. George Miller launches video virtual town hall

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, was among the first of his colleagues to make use a personal avatar on Second Life earlier this year in the debut of a virtual Capitol.

Now, Miller has launched an on-line initiative called “Ask George,” where citizens can ask Miller questions about the Iraq War via a video-sharing site or blog entry posts. (Click here for a link to the YouTube video that explains how it works.)

Miller has also started a Facebook discussion group called “Ask George,” which accepts questions with “Ask George” in the subject line. The congressman’s office worked with SplashCast to develop the first congressional Facebook application, called the “MillerTV” video player, where Facebook members may add their profiles and view all of the latest “Ask George” videos. (Click here for link to the Facebook video application.)

Each week, Miller was answer questions and make comments about what actions Democrats have taken with respect to their opposition to the Iraq War.

The idea, says his office, to talk with people wherever they like to discuss issues on-line rather than require them to visit Miller’s official web site.

“The impasse on Iraq has led to many questions and some confusion about why Democrats, who are now in the majority in the House and the Senate, have not been able to do more about the war,” Miller said in a message from his office today. “I’d like to have a dialogue with yhou about this, to answer your questions and let you know what the next steps are in this critical battle to bring our troops home safely.”

Of course, we all know that Miller himself is not sitting down and figuring this technology out. He has very smart staff who manage his on-line endeavors.

But there’s no question that Miller embraces technology and has been eager to learn new tricks.


Barbara Lee gets tested.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was among House members who held a Capitol Hill news conference before going to get tested for HIV today, in an effort to call attention to National HIV Testing Day.


Debra McCrae, from Unity Health Care Inc.‘s Project Orion, at left, watches as Lee places an oral HIV Test swab in its receptacle; rapid tests provide accurate results in about 20 minutes. Lee’s staff confirms that she has her results, and that they’re completely confidential.

Lee has been an outspoken advocate of efforts to reduce HIV infections both here in her district — where Alameda County in 1998 became the nation’s first municipality to declare a state of emergency over the disproportionate number of AIDS cases in its African-American community — and abroad, particularly in Africa.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States today is as high as 1.2 million, and more than a quarter of those infected don’t know it. Increasing test availability and encouraging people to seek out counseling and testing can significantly reduce the disease’s spread, but the stigma around HIV/AIDS and anxiety involving the test itself have proved to be barriers. So the National Association of People with AIDS works with the CDC to produce National HIV Testing Day; this year’s theme is “Take the test, take control,” emphasizing that just getting tested can change behavior regardless of the diagnosis. For more information on National HIV Testing Day, or to find a local testing site in your area, visit the CDC’s website at http://hivtest.org/


Houston lawsuit set for hearing this week

UPDATED: A judge has decided to allow a trial to go forward on allegations that Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, helped his father defraud senior citizens out of $340,000 in investments.

The tentative ruling was released late Tuesday evening. Attorneys in the case will have an opportunity to contest the ruling by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith at a hearing Thursday.

Click here for full story.


McNerney bares all.

mcnerneyportrait.jpgAll his earmarks, that is.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, apparently unwilling to give Republicans any ammunition for their claims that House Democrats are packing pork into the budget, yesterday released a list of all earmark requests he has made on his district’s behalf.

“I came to Washington committed to being open and accountable to Californians – and to change the way business is done here,” he said in a news release. “For too long, the earmark process has been shrouded in secrecy, allowing lawmakers to fund expensive boondoggle projects that benefit the special interests, as opposed to the public interest.”

These are only requests; many might go unfunded. And anyway, McNerney claimed, he’s not spending irresponsibly: “I am fully committed to fiscal discipline and responsibility. I am proud to have voted to restore the important principle of Pay-As-You-Go budgeting, which helped lead to the economic surpluses of the 1990s. And in the past few weeks, since the House began considering appropriations bills for the next fiscal year, I voted against nearly $3.5 billion in federal spending because of my commitment to reign in the federal deficit.”


Schwarzenegger video of the week

Dunno how I missed this one at the time that it happened, but we’ll put it up today in honor of Paris Hilton’s release from jail. It’s from May 23, when the governor appeared on the Tonight Show and was asked by Jay Leno about whether he would pardon Paris…

This clip cuts off just a moment too early to catch Schwarzenegger’s pithy follow-up: “Obviously we both do action movies.”


Previous SVOTWs: June 19, June 12, June 5, May 29, May 22, May 15, May 8, May 1, April 24, April 17, April 10, April 3, March 27, March 20, March 13, March 6, February 27, February 20, February 13, February 6, January 30.


SJ State posts polls on term limits and primary

Two new polls by the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University offer insight into the state of voters’ minds on the presidential primary, term limits, residency for illegal immigrants and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s job performance.

A poll on the presidential primary candidates finds Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani leading in their respective party primary contests.

A second poll shows that a majority of voters favor a measure headed for the February ballot that would alter state legislative term limits. It is more popular among Republicans and Independents than among Democrats.

“The partisan and ideological breakdowns suggest that the ballot language, written by Secretary of State Jerry Brown, emphasizing the overall reduction in years a legislator may serve,” said survey director Melinda Jackson, a political science professor at San Jose State University, “is persuasive to voters who otherwise would be likely to oppose the measure because it also increases the amount of time a legislator may spend in either house.”

The California Term Limits Defense Fund, which opposes the measure through U.S. Term Limits, quickly seized upon the results to say it “confirms both the deception at the heart of the efforts by (Senate President Pro Tem) Don Perata and (Assembly Speaker) Fabian Nunez to fool the voters into weakening term limits and the fundamental flaw of their initiative.”

UPDATE: The proponents of the term limit measure sent out a statement in response to U.S. Term Limits:

“The San Jose State poll is the 4th independent, statewide poll that shows this initiative passing with a clear majority,” said Gale Kaufman, chief strategist for the measure. “This confirms what our own polling indicates and shows a clear and continuous pattern of support for this initiative. With every poll that shows us well ahead, the opposition finds itself grasping at straws to explain to their out-of-state paymasters why the voters of California support our initiative.”

In other issues, a majority of Californians support the formation of a legal path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. They also give Schwarzenegger high marks, with 61 percent of California voters saying they approve of his job performance.

For the full poll data, margin of error and methodology, click on the links above to each poll.